Things Go 'Beep' On the Beach

Bar O'Paris in Versaiiles
A less-than-typical Versaiiles bar; but why not?.

Inland Refugees Import Beaches

Paris:- Friday, 1. August 1997:- This is the summer of the portable telephone in Europe. That this can be so, will give you an idea of what sort of news there is.

Last Sunday, a four-year old kid saved his father by calling for help from a porti while cruising the Italian lake of Piedino in a pedalo. Le Parisien doesn't say 'saved from what?' but uses the event as an opener to illustrate that portable phones do have their uses.

What I gather from the story, is that portis are easier to use than TV remote controls, although my kids use ours mainly to hide it. If it was a phone, they'd probably dump it down the garbage chute.

Three days before the Italian episode, 40 mountain climbers who were stranded in a fog at the 4,000-metre level of Mont Blanc, called to Chamonix for help with a porti.

Marine rescuers on the other hand, warn that portis do not have anywhere near the range of portable VHS units, and should not be counted on at sea.

Apparently sales of the things exploded in June and there are now 3.5 million subscribers in France to the various services.

As yet there are no official or specific rules about their usage. While on the road, the driver is supposed to be in control of the vehicle and Village near Versailles if one is phoning at the time of an accident, the insurance people would probably take it into consideration.

At the Brasserie Lipp on the boulevard Saint-Germain, there is a sign advising customers to turn off their phones if they wish to be served. Before it was put up, a telephone would ring - or beep - and half the customers would fumble through their pockets to see if it was theirs.

Everything is closed in the smallest villages.

France Telecom has printed a little booklet containing some tips on telephone etiquette. It suggests turning off the phone in cinemas, and during burial and wedding ceremonies. One is not supposed to use them in hospitals at all.

On the beach their use is mixed. Again nobody knows whose is ringing, so it is an aid to keeping the grillers turning over to check if it their phone is being 'bipped.'. Those who don't have them are asked to look after the ones of those who have when they go in the sea.

The metered telephone at the bar has seen its use plummet by 80 percent, and this loss of revenue is simply added to everyone's bill. That is, all except for the bars equipped to recharge clients' phones while they loll in the sun.

At the private beaches, customers have been seen phoning in their drink orders to the bars, 20 metres away. Lots of loud and friendly conversations seem to be disturbing the peace, as well as some pacemakers too.

Le Parisien has some tips for porti phone users: don't shout even if there is a lot of background noise, try to remember that the person you are seeking to contact may be in a delicate situation at the moment you call, and don't interrupt whatever you are doing at the moment to accept a phone call. Say you'll call back later and hang up.

France Goes Beach Crazy

You thought I was kidding, didn't you? Saint-Quentin in Haute-Picardie isn't located on the channel, so this town has brought the beach to its place de la Mairie in the centre of town. This has been done with by importing 800 tons Summer driving detour of sand, some stripped beach changing-tents, some parasols and a few fake palms plus a portable pool for the kiddies, with a slide as a bonus.

One of the Paris area driving problems in summer.

Toulouse is a bit far from both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, so the Diagonale Café on the place des Carmes has some surfboards leaning against the outside and a 20 centimetre deep layer of beach sand inside. Customers are invited to at least wear bathing suits, but need not wear shoes.

On second thought, Toulouse is not all that far from the two seas. Their autoroute is called 'Autoroute des Deux-Mers' after all.

The Métro - Paris' Speedway

Parisians and visitors combined take over a billion trips on the métro each year. The reason is simple: its average speed is 26.8 kph. On the surface, in traffic, it can be anything from zero to 80 kph.

Once you are on the platform, you can calculate your travel time pretty closely by counting the number of stations on your route, because the average time between stations is two minutes.

What can throw off perfect timing are métro access routes. The walk from the Champs-Elysées to the platform on line one, somewhere under Etoile, is long. Métro station Abbesses, on the side of Montmartre, is deep. You can wait a long time for the elevator or walk up the 36 metres to the surface.

Not such good news is the August rise in public transport fares. The good old 'carnet' of ten métro tickets goes up from 46 francs to 48; which is still a good deal, especially if you are paying for them with dollars.

Free Parking in Paris?

During the month of August, parking is free on streets classed as residential. You can tell these are free if their parcometres have a yellow dot pasted to them.

The other half of the page-long report in Le Parisien, lists all the exceptions - where parking is not free in August. Parking is generally not free in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 8th, 9th and tenth arrondissements.

In the remainder of Paris' arrondissements, most major streets and especially those with many shops, are not free either. Some parking-ticket ladies I talked to a couple of weeks ago, assured me they would be on the job in August - so watch out for the yellow dots.

French TV's Summer Program

The 1964 film 'Angélique, Marquise des Anges,' starring the lovely Michèle Mercier, was shown early in the month on state TV's France 3. If you were unlucky enough to miss it, be sure to plan your next visit to France in two year's time when it will probably be shown again; as it has been broadcast in past summers on an average of once every two or three years.

Any other older French movies you want to catch up on are most likely programmed for sometime this summer too just as they have been for past summers. This goes Church near Versailles for popular TV series, both French and foreign. M6 has been showing the 'Little House on the Prairie' non-stop since 1988.

M6's programming is directed to the 15-40 age group and the network's program director claims none of their viewers watch TV in the summer, not even M6.

A modest village church, closer to Saint-Germain.

This is obviously untrue as Le Parisien found a number of readers who are not happy with the re-runs. Some are philosophical about it and say they are staying outside anyway; and others suggest buying the video versions so these old chestnuts can be viewed comfortably in winter. Readers in hospitals and jails were not consulted.

Tour de France Wrap-Up

Last Monday, 15,000 delirious fans filled Bonn's modest Rathausplatz, to greet this year's winner of the Tour de France, Jan Ullrich. The pink pastels of the Rathaus itself gave the TV coverage the air of a happy end to a Disney film, with colorful banners and clouds of balloons rising in the bright sun.

The festivities were short, because Ullrich was back in the saddle again at Boxmeer in Holland by the afternoon.

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